Ditzel cuts God’s immanence out of the doctrine of justification from eternity
If one views the few works on the subject of the immanent work of God in Christ from eternity that Ditzel lists, one, if Ditzel really studied it, must have caused his eyes to be opened. This was “Justification as an Eternal and Immanent Act of God” by John Gill.’ Now, Ditzel admits that God acts in eternity but denies, contrary to Gill, that God acts from eternity in time. Gill of course, argues in the work Ditzel claims to have read that in justification God acts from eternity in time, indeed, He is immanent everywhere. Sometimes Ditzel is very near to appreciating this truth but then he always recoils from it claiming that as Gill is wrong, the doctrine must be wrong. This, he calls ‘logic’. However, I believe that Gill is quite correct to view God as working from eternity in time so my ‘logic’ tells me that Ditzel is wrong.
Ditzel misunderstands and misrepresents Peter Meney
However, Ditzel’s rebuttal of George M. Ella in Part Four does not begin with a criticism of Gill or him but with their fellow wayfarer Peter Meney who also believes in justification from eternity. Ditzel postulates falsely that though Meney believes in justification from eternity, he yet denies that God activates this truth immanently in time and in the believer. This is, however, clearly taught by Peter Meney and is a vital part of his doctrine. Using the example of the justification of the patriarchs, Ditzel scolds Meney for writing somewhere:
‘Christ’s sin-bearing was in the eye of God from eternity. The patriarchs were justified during their lives but before the time of Christ’s death by being declared righteous on account of the future shed blood of their Redeemer (Job 19:25). Since God has Christ’s atoning work ever before His eyes it is clear that those atoned are also always before God’s eyes. The elect are justified from eternity.’
Ditzel maintains that it does not follow that because God has the atoning work of Christ before His eyes and those who are atoned, on the understanding that justification is given to those for whom Christ died, God therefore justifies from eternity. Again, I must ask Ditzel from where God justifies when viewing time from the beginning and the end as ever present before Him. Of course Peter Meney, rightly in my opinion, sees the justifying of the elect in all time past present and future as pointing to the fact that God is justifying them from eternity. Ditzel does not put God’s action first but starts his syllogisms to logically demonstrate that justification from eternity is false with a false premise. This is the presupposition that God does not justify from eternity. He then selects evidence which he feels backs up that idea and shuts out evidence which contradicts him. Meney, on the other hand, selects all the evidence from God’s actions in eternity and in time and gives us an overall view.
Ditzel, however, goes on to declare:
‘Someone may ask, But is not the justification of the patriarchs before the atonement of Christ proof of justification before the Cross and, therefore, evidence of justification from eternity? ‘
This, of course, is not Meney’s point. This minister of the Word sees Christ’s atonement as representing the eternal will of God for His people and that the fact that Christ died in the fullness of time means that all the elect profit from Christ’s death wherever they are in time. The blood of the Lamb covers the sins of all people from the Fall to the gathering in of the elect at the end of time. All this, Meney, Gill, and myself hold from Scripture, is worked out and exercised from eternity.
Arguing that Meney’s gospel cannot possibly apply to the patriarchs (we remember that Ditzel believes they were not born again), Ditzel argues:
‘Let’s use Abraham as an example of an Old Testament patriarch. Romans 4:3 and 9 tell us “that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.” One would indeed have to be blinded to the meaning of Romans 4 and Galatians 3 to not see that God promised to Abraham that the coming Messiah would be born in his line of descent and that Abraham’s faith in this coming Messiah was “accounted to him for righteousness” (Galatians 3:6). Galatians 3:8 is perfectly clear: “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” And notice Romans 4:19-25: “And being not weak in faith, he [Abraham] considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it [belief or faith] was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” Abraham was justified in the same way we are justified: through faith.’
He then adds, ‘Where is justification from eternity in these Scriptures? It is not to be found. It is a perverse doctrine that is totally foreign to these or any Scriptures!’
It would have helped greatly, of course, if Ditzel had explained why this passage concerning God’s work from eternity in Christ is not evidence for justification from eternity, nor why one can be justified in time without being born again in time but Ditzel never gives a detailed exposition of these matters, leaving his readers to guess at his meaning which he always contends is a logical deduction, but from what? Hitherto, Ditzel has argued that we who believe in justification from eternity argue for a justification without faith, which is not at all what we believe, yet Ditzel believes in a justification not only prior to but without being born again. Then he claims that the doctrine of full faith-giving justification in Christ from eternity is ‘perverse’.
Those dying in infancy
Concerning the death of infants allegedly without saving faith and who do not actively belief, which Ditzel now discusses, I ask for caution but cannot rule out faith and belief from the beings of these children of whom many may belong to the elect Bride of Christ and believe thoroughly in their Saviour. As faith is a gift of God, we cannot argue that God does not give infants faith. Normally Baptists today rule out that those who die in infancy die in belief, though the old Baptist creeds accepted infants as believers on the grounds of Christ’s admonitions and promises to the parents concerning their young offspring who were brought to him. In the wisdom of God, I believe that infant members of believers’ families ought to be baptised according to NT practice and the Great Commission, not on the strength of their belief but on the strength of Christ’s mission and witness to children, the teaching of Paul and the Apostles and the NT practice of baptising households. The Baptist argument that though most of the accounts of baptism in the NT were of families, these families contained with absolute certainty no children, I cannot accept as the word for family in the Scriptures includes infants. Scripture does not speak of exemptions. I do not say there is no evidence in Scripture that children are given grace to believe from the womb, as there are several occasions which appear to point to this. But I leave this to God who does all things well and suffers the children to come unto Him. Ditzel also calls for caution on this issue, too, but is perhaps saying too much when He says that he limits salvation to a declaration of faith. I am sure Meney and I would thoroughly agree with Ditzel when he says, ‘What I do see in Scripture is a God who is in complete control of the universe. God will bring all of His elect to salvation, and He has given abundant witness of the means in Scripture.’ Anyway, most children I have met as a parent, uncle, neighbour, teacher and grandfather make public declarations of faith.
Sadly, when Ditzel says anything Scriptural, he usual immediately takes it back with a vengeance. After leaving the matter of the salvation of infants in the hands of God where it belongs, he allows himself an outburst of his faulty and discriminating logic and says, ‘So, what about infants who die in infancy? The Scripture leaves us with no other answer than that they must not be elect.’ He believes any other conclusion is ‘a fairy tale fib’ and those who hold out any hope in this matter are ‘cruel’.
Again, Ditzel speaks of an introductory ‘talk’ I gave somewhere, though he was not present, which was apparently recorded in whole or part and he obtained a copy, but he does not refer to my lengthy expositions of the Scriptures on the texts he now gives. He rebukes me for ‘rearranging’ Ephesians 1:1-4 to support my cause. In these verses, I speak of Christ who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Heavenly places in accordance with our election in Him to be holy and without blame before Him in love. Here I see a ‘logic’ that Ditzel appears to have missed. For me, the very fact of our election to glory and our being fitted out in Christ with all His blessings in eternity for time strengthens the argument for the immanence of God in both time and eternity. I add ‘for time’ because Paul is obviously referring to what Gill called our justification before the world in that others see Christ in us. Ditzel surprisingly says that verse 4 ‘before the foundation of the world’ does not refer back to verses 1-3 but precedes it in logic (his back to front logic). I take it as obvious that the ideas expressed in Ephesians 1:1-3 are continued throughout the chapter witnessing to our heavenly inheritance until our future glorification. The wider passage goes through our entire history in Christ from eternity, dealing with the beginning and ending of time in relation to it. But Ditzel argues that the blessings given us in Christ in Heaven (v.3), i.e. eternity, come after the choosing before the foundation of the world mentioned in v. 4. So it is Ditzel who re-arranges the verses not I, putting verse 4 before verse 3. I see these verses as speaking of the one event. The references to Heaven and eternity not being at all contradictory but demonstrating from whence our salvation and calling come for time and all eternity. Ditzel, for some reason unknown to me, argues that ‘The blessings are not before the foundation of the world, the choosing is. Election is logically prior to the foundation of the world. His giving and our receiving of these blessings, including justification, take place in time.’ Again, we see Ditzel having us elected without being placed in Christ in eternity yet waiting from Ditzel’s quite weird idea of the foundation of the world, and all these thousands of years after, before God activates our wills. What is the sense of such an idea? Why cannot Ditzel believe with Gill and me the Scriptural fact that God is immanent in time from eternity? When God says let Ditzel be justified, he is justified. Here Ditzel will protest that God cannot justify him without giving him the wherewithal to appropriate justification, that is through faith. Correct. This is why we believe that God works directly from eternity in election and justification and does not do things by halves and in stages and at times in eternity and at later times in time, making nonsense of the economy of salvation.
2 Timothy 1:9
Then Ditzel criticises my use of 2 Timothy 1:9 by saying:
‘Dr. Ella then correctly cites 2 Timothy 1:9, but, I propose, misinterprets its meaning. (How can I cite a passage correctly when I give it a wrong meaning?) Notice God’s Word: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” Notice that the Scripture says that God’s purpose and grace to call and save us were given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.’
Of course, I say a hearty ‘Amen’ to this and take the verse to mean what it says, not what Ditzel says I mean by citing this beautiful word. Sadly Ditzel concludes that I do not mean what I mean and believes that I argue against a time application of salvation as if it all occurred in some past eternity. This is illustrated by his ever-repeated, taunting phrase, ‘Is this saying that we were called and saved before the world began? I say, ‘Not in Ditzel’s sense or ‘logic’. We were called and saved in time according to God’s purpose and grace given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.’ God does not give us his purpose before we exist as Ditzel believes, but He exercises His eternal purpose directly in time. I do not place God’s electing and saving us some time back in a bye-gone eternity, as Ditzel imagines, in spite of my voluminous arguments to the contrary. Ditzel is always postulating a time before time purposing grace to non-existent people instead of realising that God acts in time from eternity immanently, making His purpose clear to existing people in time.
More mixed up thinking
Ditzel goes on to imagine:
‘If we had an actual existence in eternity that coincided with this gifting, so that we could receive it then—so that we were actually justified then—it a) might have been according to our works and thus be contrary to the primary theme of the verse, and b) there would then be no need for justification to occur in time except to make real to our consciences what had already taken place in eternity. But if this were true, then Christ’s death and resurrection would also be unnecessary except that, once it becomes the object of our faith, it might inform our consciences of the justification that really took place in eternity. Thus we see that this teaching drains the Cross of Christ of any real effect except as a symbol to bring something to our minds and is only a hop, skip, and a jump from Peter Abelard’s idea that Christ simply set us a good example!
Now I cannot follow this at all as it is beyond anything I can picture negatively about my Lord and His salvation. Furthermore, I have rarely read such a piece of false logic running away with this self-alleged logician. However, after misunderstanding both Gill and me and misrepresenting us in such an unbalanced way, Ditzel strives to come to a more amiable conclusion by saying:
‘What Gill writes does not have to be seen in the context of justification from eternity. It agrees with the biblical understanding that we have already seen that these gifts of grace do not become our possession until we exercise the gift of faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior.’
Is Ditzel coming nearer to us here? He accepts what Gill and I have been arguing for all along but with the difference that we see no contradiction between what God gives us from eternity and the grace given us to accept it in time. This is exactly what justification from eternity means. Once Ditzel accepts that God who dwells in eternity condescends to save us in time, which act gives time its purpose, he will understand why the Scriptures make it clear that God acts from eternity in time and Ditzel and ourselves will be one. Happy Day!
The idea that God determined to save us in some far away eternity in a past before time began and then, thousands of years later, decided to put His thought into practice ridicules the whole doctrine of salvation as outlined in Scripture. So, too, to teach that Abraham in his day was given a justification and a salvation and a faith which were less than the necessities of the New Birth for which time and all the Old Testament saints had to wait some one thousand and five hundred years, makes a mockery of the Scriptures. I have asked many NCT-ites when they believe that Abraham was born again and they invariably tell me that Jesus preached in Hell after His death and the elect in Hell responded to His gospel and were born again. Furthermore, I ask my NCT friends when they believe that the Mosaic Law was annulled, rescinded and revoked. Some say when the Incarnation took place, others say when the Sermon on the Mount was preached and others say at the crucifixion but still others say at Christ’s resurrection. I ask them under which law Christ died and I get anything but a Biblical answer. Recently some NCT heroes have agreed that Christ died under the Law of Moses. This is a good step back to Orthodoxy. However, the question is still discussed by them concerning under which Law present sinners are convicted and their answer is the New Law of Christ. I naturally ask them when and where and to what purpose this Law was given and ask if they can give it to me in a written, God authorised, form, and I ask and ask and ask and I have been asking this for decades since John Reisinger and others first broke with the Reformed faith as taught by 15th and 16th century believers like Hamilton, Jewel, Bullinger, Lambert, Lever, Grindal, Calvin, Bucer, Laski, and a thousand more. The only answer I receive is that our Reformers were wrong because they believed in Covenant Theology. So did Abraham, so did David, so did Paul and, of course, so did Christ who is the Keeper of the Covenant for us.